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Visit to Dunn Vineyards – The legendary producer from Howell Mountain

Introduction to Dunn Vineyards

The estate was founded in 1979 by Randy and his wife Lori and they released their first commercial vintage in 1981 (this was the 1979 vintage). Since then they have gained a loyal following and Dunn is one of the names everyone brings up when I ask for recommendations of Napa-based producers matching my preferences for more transparent wines. This is a family business involving their children Mike and Kristina and they own their vineyards around Howell Mountain. They produce one Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain, but also one “Napa Valley” bottling that also includes some fruit from the Napa Valley floor sourced from other vineyards. The exceptions to this rule are the vintages from 2009-2011 that was produced only by Howell Mountain fruit.

When it comes to their vineyards it is worth mentioning that in spring 2014 they replanted their older parcel (Trailer Vineyard) and in the 2013 vintage this fruit was bottled as a single vineyard wine that is not yet released. So the 2012 Howell Mountain is the last vintage including the old vine fruit from Trailer Vineyard.

If you want to read more about their vineyards they have a good presentation on their website: http://www.dunnvineyards.com/vineyards/

During my meeting I met with Ben Hiza (working with all types of tasks, depending on season:), Mike Dunn and briefly with Randy. Their welcoming was amazingly friendly and you can definitely feel that this is a family business with an atmosphere of openness and jokes. We talked about everything from children (I had brought my one year old daughter to the meeting) to politics, differences between Scandinavia and the US, etc., but we also had some time to talk about vineyards, wines and the work in the cellar:)

A few short notes about how Dunn Vineyards produce their wines

  • The fruit is crushed and destemmed
  • Fermentation takes between 10-13 days
  • They press very lightly
  • Malolactic fermentation is done in barrel
  • They use 100% new oak
  • Wines are racked every 6 months
  • The wines are not allowed to go above 14% in alcohol. They take measure in the vineyard to ensure a lower alcohol level, but if needed they will do a de-alcoholization
  • The grapes from Howell Mountain has higher level of tannins than grapes from the Valley floor, but they never try to adjust this. Therefore their wines often are considered rough in the youth
  • Picking decisions are still made by Randy and it is based on tasting the grapes

Tasting notes for the wines from Dunn Vineyards

2011 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Restrained but intense wine with fresh currant notes, especially on palate but also on the nose. There are also some notes of cedar, blackberries and menthol. The acidity is incredibly cool and vibrant and tannins are fine grained but still very grippy. The wine is already approachable but will definitely improve with age and has a long life ahead. Would be very interesting to taste in 15 years from now.

2012 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

On the palate this is a rather lush wine with layers of both dark and red fruit and we find currant, blackberries and some blueberries. The nose is more careful than the palate but we find the same notes. There is a juicy and slightly broad acidity and tannins are sandy and very present. At the moment there are some oak notes but they are well integrated in the wine. I would expect this wine to integrate more with time and it is a great representation of Cabernet Sauvignon.

2010 Retro Cellars Petite Sirah

Very dense and pure fruit notes of mainly dark fruit, containing blackberries, cherries, blueberries. The tannins are grippy but of good quality and there is a juicy acidity. This is a rather fruity and dense wine but still with good balance.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Dunn Vineyards

We only tasted two wines from Dunn and one made by Mike Dunn under the name “Retro Cellars” (http://www.retrocellars.com). Still, these two wines was a great demonstration in how great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon can be. The wines are fantastically well balanced and shows both energy and complexity. I have heard several times that the Dunn wines are rough and not approachable in the youth, but my opinion is that the two Howell Mountain wines I tasted are surprisingly approachable already, but they will require some decanting and a food pairing. My personal favorite of the two wines was the 2011 that showed more precision and attitude.
In the future I hope to be able to taste some of the older vintages from Dunn Vineyards. If you are in the Copenhagen region on the 18th of March you have a unique opportunity to taste the vintages between 1979 and 2013 at one of Scandinavias best restaurants, Geranium. Unfortunately I am still in the US then, so I will not be there.

 

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Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 tasting

In November I attended a Napa Valley tasting at K&L Wine merchants in San Francisco. The theme was Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and we tasted some high profile producers and wines.

I have to be honest and say that I am not the greatest fan of powerful Cabernet Sauvignon with high levels of alcohol and oak influence, and this tasting did include several wines in this category. The wines we tasted had been double decanted 3 hours before the tasting. Below are my tasting notes.

My favorite wine in the line up was Dunn, mainly because of a strong personality and profile, but I think Lewelling, Joseph Phelps and Mondavi also are worth mentioning.

2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Dense but rather well integrated palate with cedar, blackcurrant, graphite, blueberries and blackberries but also vanilla from oak and a hint of barnyard notes. There are also notes of menthol, mint and an ok acidity that adds freshness. At the moment the nose is very muted but it show similar notes as on the palate. Rather inky finish with a salty touch. This is a very dense and heavy wine but not completely without balance.

2013 Caymus “Special Select” Cabernet Sauvignon

Thick heavy fruit on the palate with an abundance of Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blackcurrant, cedar, plum and vanilla from oak. More careful on the nose but it has a heavy denseness. There is an acidity that adds some freshness, but it is not enough to create a balanced wine. The wine is completely dominated by the heavy fruit notes that almost gets jammy. Extremely generous but over the top according to me.

2013 Robert Mondavi “To-Kalon” Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Rather soft fruit on the nose, dominated by darker fruit like blueberries, but also with clear nots of toasted oak that encapsulates the nose. Denser fruit on the palate but also an inkiness and salt, and in the finish there is some bitterness from oak. The wine start rather soft on the nose but it get more sharp with acidity and inkiness along the way. The wine has some elegance but unfortunately the oak does not give it a chance to shine.

2013 Cardinale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Nice fruit core on the nose, dominated by black fruit like Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blueberries and blackcurrant, but also some oak notes. An explosion on the palate with an abundance of fruit but also a rather energetic acidity which creates a mouthwatering expression of the wine. After a while some more peppery notes appear and In the finish there is more ink and saltiness. This is a very powerful and heavy wine but still manages to keep an ok balance.

2013 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red

Very ripe and heavy fruit on the nose but also some menthol, spices and oak notes. Very jammy and almost thick on the palate with an abundance of blackcurrant fruit and leafs but also green paprika. The finish leaves a rather inky impression. This is extremely heavy and concentrated wine that does get rather overwhelming and I lack something to balance all the fruit.

2013 Ramey Pedregal

A very fruit forward wine with an abundance of Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blackcurrant and plums but also some tobacco and vanilla from oak. The palate has a rather fresh acidity and nice fruit behind all the oak and we get some rather chewy tannins. The alcohol also comes through on the palate together with ink, cedar and some menthol that adds a little freshness. The finish gets rather dominated by oak.

2013 Dunn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon 2013There is a slightly funky barnyard note on the nose but it does not get dominant and we also find earthy notes, nice blueberries, spices and blackberries. Good balance on the palate with restraint but dense fruit, an earthiness, mushrooms, cedar and a precise and energetic acidity that carries the wine well. After a while som blackcurrant appear and stays with us in the finish. This wine will be interesting to follow over the years.

2013 BV Geogres de Latour

Rather closed on the nose but still with a restraint denseness with notes of cherries, cedar and blackberries. Inky and slightly salty on the palate but with a fresh acidity. Rather sharp at the moment, and will need some time to get balanced. Some young but mouthwatering blackcurrant notes appear after a while on the palate and stays in the finish.

2013 Lewelling “Wright Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon

Pure brimming fruit notes dominate the palate, mainly from blueberries, cherries, blackberries, cassis but also some herbal notes appear after a while. A juicy fresh acidity drives the palate and combines well with the fresh fruit. Some inkiness appear in the finish together with warm alcohol notes. Nice fruit driven wine with a fresh acidity.

2013 Araujo “Altagracia” Cabernet Sauvignon

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec.
Soft ripe dark fruit, marsipan, vanilla from oak, cedar and some black currant on this rather forward nose. Again dense on the palate and with a soft acidity. The finish is surprisingly short for such a dense wine and there is an inkiness. Big and generous wine.

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Weingut Wittmann – Stellar performance in 2015

In July we visited Weingut Wittmann and was guided both in the vineyards and in the cellar by the Cellarmaster Georg Rieser. We also had the chance to taste a large range of their wines.

We spent quite some time visiting their different vineyards. Georg got very en gaged when we talked about how they work in the vineyards to produce the best possible grapes. He pointed out that this is where the great wines are created, not in the cellar.

weingut wittmann vineyard

Our daughter Iva showed great enthusiasm during the visit:)

Weingut Wittman perform green harvest but the timing and the amount removed depends on the vintage. In a cold vintage they do an early green harvest to ensure faster maturation of the grapes. Another important task in the vineyard is the removal of leaves around the grapes. They need to avoid getting grapes wet, since this could result in botrytis, but they also want to reduce the amount of sun directly on the grapes. Therefore they cut more on the side that has morning sun, and less on the afternoon side since this is more intense. They perform several harvests per vineyard to ensure clusters/berries are picked at optimal ripeness.

Weingut Wittman has been biodynamic since 2004 but before that they had a long history of organic viticulture that started in 1980. By 1990 they where 100% organic.

weingut wittmann vineyardIn the cellar they have some beautiful large oak casks that are over 100 years old. Some of the Großes Gewächs (GG) wines are stored in the old casks but some are in the stainless steel vats. Georg also comments on the importance of maintenance of the old wooden vats to ensure freshness. They do have some barrique size barrels but these are used for red wine and for some Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. New wood barrels are never used for the Riesling wines since they do not want any wood notes on the Riesling.

Since some years back they use a sorting table for selection before the grapes are pressed. This is one more initiative to heighten the level of quality in the fruit that goes into the wines. Gravity is used as much as possible instead of pumping when moving the must from pressing to fermentation and then on to storage. As Georg puts it: “The wine has to be handled gently”.

Wittman uses natural yeast and spontaneous fermentation in most cases, but sometimes they need to add some yeast to ensure the process finishes in time. If possible they do not want the wine to be fermenting during the winter. In colder vintages with less opulent fruit they use longer maceration times to add depth to the wines.

They vinify different harvests and plots separately and then later make blends based on the quality and personality of the wine and vintage. They have a tasting with more than 90 different wines where the staff and the family takes part, and based on the impressions and opinions they decide on a blend for the vintage. This means that there are no pre-decided vineyard sections for each type of wine.

The wines we tasted at Weingut Wittmann

2015 Wittmann Riesling trocken

Slim nose with yellow apples and tropical fruit. Fresh citric acidity with minerals and a grippy and almost a bit salty expression.

This is an energetic and precise wine and a very good entry level Riesling.

87

2015 Wittmann Niersteiner Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly red slate, situated close to the Rhein.

Ripe notes of yellow apples, apricot, an abundance of tropical fruit but also some fresh young green apples. Rather broad acidity but with good structure and grip.

The wine has a generous and juicy expression.

87

 

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly limestone.

Tight fresh fruit nose with apples, pears and some slight stone fruit.  Very pure and precise acidity that also has a juicy expression.

Mouthwatering and well balanced wine.

91weingut wittmann vineyard

2014 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

Rather ripe tropical fruit notes, apples and some petroleum. Juicy but not very precise acidity that stays in a rather long finish.  A rather generous and opulent wine.

87

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Aulerde Riesling Großes Gewächs

The soil in Aulerde has less limestone than Kirchspiel and Morstein.

Rather broad and open nose showing tropical fruits like apricot and lychee. The acidity is juicy and stays in a long finish.

This wine has a very generous expression and good structure.

91

weingut wittmann vineyard

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Kirchspiel Riesling Großes Gewächs

Compared with Morstein, the Kirchspiel wines are usually more open and ready to drink early and is often showing notes of grapefruit. The soil is similar to Morstein.
Very fresh nose with white stone fruit, lots of lychee and some young apricot and pears.

The acidity is amazing with a very energetic and firm expression and an abundance of minerals. Some fresh fruit notes balance the acidity well.

At the moment the wine is slightly dominated by the acidity but it should develop fantastically with time. A great wine with fantastic potential.

95

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Großes Gewächs

The wines from Morstein usually has a lot of citrus and acidity. The soil has clayish marl and limestone on the upper layer and more limestone in the subsoil.
There are multiple layers of fruit on this dense and concentrated nose, but it never gets overly dominant. We also find some very slight flint and yeast notes and white flowers.

Juicy and mouthwatering acidity with a grippy expression showing both lime fruit and lemon. Again the fruit is dense and complemented by some herbal notes.

The wine already has a good balance between the acidity and the fruit and it manages to combine generosity with elegance. A truly fantastic wine.

96

2014 Wittmann Weissburgunder Weißer Burgunder Reserve

Aged in new oak barrels of 600l.

Fresh young apricot dominated a rather opulent nose. There are also oak notes on both the nose and palate but they do not get dominant. Good acidic bite and minerals on the palate where we also find some nice fresh fruit.

This is a rich and charming Pinot Blanc.

88

2014 Wittmann Chardonnay Reserve Trocken

Rather slim palate with tropical fruit and som notes of oak.

The wine has a rather energetic acidity and juicy pineapple notes on the palate. Will require some more time to find the right balance.

89

2015 Wittmann Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 120.

Rather slim on both nose and palate with young tropical fruit and honey, combined with a rather juicy lime acidity.

Fresh Auslese with good precision, but rather one-dimensional.

87

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 125.

Lots of young stone fruit and pineapple combined with honey and floral notes.

Energetic Auslese with a grippy acidity and a good mineral structure.  Should develop fantastically with time

91

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel

A rather spicy nose with stone fruit, herbs, apricot, bees wax, white flowers and lime.

Dense and multi layered palate with similar notes as on the palate but also a fresh acidity and mineral structure.

Fantastic Auslese that should be kept in storage for a long time.

93-94

Overall impressions of Weingut Wittmann in 2015

We were very impressed with Wittman’s wines from the 2015 vintage. They have a complexity and depth in combination with a precise and very energetic acidity. The Kirchspiel and Morstein GG wines are truly amazing and we would recommend anyone to stock up on these, but also the other wines keep a very high quality level.

One last note

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Pinot Noir from three different countries

Some months ago we had a small Pinot Noir tasting including four wines from three different countries. The lineup included wines from New Zealand (Ata Rangi), two from classic Burgundy (Domaine Marquis d’Angerville, Louis Jadot) and Germany (Enderle & Moll). It was a focus on outstanding classic vintage of 2010, but in the german case we didn’t have one so here (unfairly) a 2014 was added to the bunch. At the end of the evening Domaine Marquis d’Angerville stod as a clear winner, but we where also reminded of how different expressions you can get from the Pinot Noir grape.

Tasting notes for the wines

Pinot Noir from Ata Rangi, Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, Enderle & Moll, Louis Jadot

2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

A rather herbal expression on the nose, but also with peppers, alcohol, orange peel, under vegetation, blackberries and some oak.
Similar on the palate where the wine is rather heavy for a Pinot Noir and there is an oak bitterness to the finish.

89p

2010 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Champans

Dense and rather dark fruit with blueberries, blackberries, oil paint and liquorice on the nose. These notes are then complemented with iron, dark minerals, floral notes and hints of marzipan on the palate. Good acidity that carries the rather dense palate and ensure a fresh and energetic expression.
The wine has great balance and good complexity.

93p

2014 Enderle & Moll Pinot Noir Buntsandstein

Extremely floral and full of raspberries but also some conserved cherries and a very slight barnyard smell. Mouthwatering fresh raspberries on the palate combined with a precise but careful acidity with a slight harshness in the finish. There is also a fine grained tannic structure.
This is a forward and expressive wine with lots of energy, but unfortunately it is also rather one dimensional. Great wine for the summer evenings.

91p

2010 Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Theurons

There are rather sweet raspberry notes on the palate in the beginning but after a few hours there are also notes of darker fruit.
The body is rather slim, with a fresh acidic expression.

87p

Emrich-Schönleber – A reliable producer shining in the 2015 vintage

We met with Frank Schönleber, who is a decisive man, clearly spoken and with strong opinions. He takes great pride in their production and will definitely be a leading influence in the Nahe region for many years to come.

The estate is very focused on Riesling wines and during our visit we only tried Riesling and narrowed in mainly on the dry wines. During the meeting with Frank we both talked about the development in the region and the ways of working at Emrich-Schönleber. The trend both at Emrich-Schönleber and among other producers in the region has been to move from sweet wines towards dry riesling. At the peak for sweet wines their production was approximately 75% sweet Riesling wines, but today it is more or less the opposite about 25%.

We talked some time about the development in Nahe and the surrounding regions. One important change was in the regulations and split of vineyards. Until 1971 the vineyards in the region were split up in much smaller sections but because of difficulties to market the wines a reform where vineyards where grouped together to larger vineyards was implemented. In some cases this has resulted in very large vineyards with many different levels of quality and soil, thereby producing wines of different expression. This is a challenge for the consumer. One unfortunate example is the Frühlingsplätzchen vineyard that today is on both sides of Monzingen, where the section on the east side is more similar to Halenberg (also on the east side). Because of this Emrich-Schönleber produces wines that are a mix of Halenberg and grapes from the east part of Frühlingsplätzchen, but these wines cannot be named after the vineyards.

In the cellar Emrich-Schönleber uses spontaneous fermentation for some of their wines, including the Großes Gewächs (GG) wines, but for the more basic Riesling wines they add yeast. The logic behind the decision is that they want to achieve a more classic Riesling expression on the basic wines, while they allow the GG and single vineyard wines to develop a more personalized and complex character, letting the terroir of the vineyard shine through. For the spontaneous fermentation their experience is that it is better to use wood vats instead of stainless steel vats.

To reach top quality in the fruit they control the yield in the vineyards. The preference is to do this proactively for example by letting grass grow between the rows, instead of using green harvest which is a more reactive action.

One important project at Emrich-Schönleber has been the recultivation of a section of Halenberg. We had the opportunity to try three different vintages of this wine made from rather young vines. This is a wine that, of course,  will continue to develop as the vines get older, but in the 2015 vintage our impression is that the wine took a large step up in quality. We look forward to following the development where eventually these grapes will go into the GG bottling for Halenberg.

The wines we tasted

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling trocken

Slate soil.

Slim fresh nose with some white stone fruit. This is carried over to the palate where we also get a sappy, fresh acidity that drives the wine. Good entry level wine with a slim and precise profile.

85p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Lenz

Mainly grapes from Frühlingsplätzchen.

Fresh stone fruit and hints of white flower on this charming and seductive nose. Acidity is precise and pure and there is a slight sweetness in the background.

The wine has a fresh citric lime finish. A generous wine that is easy to enjoy.

87p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling “Mineral” trocken

From soil with stony quartz slate.

The nose is very slim and slightly citric. Not much generosity here. On the palate it is all about the acidity and the strong mineral bite. We also find lemon, lime and some careful stone fruit.

Energetic but very slim and citric driven.

87p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Riesling “Fruhtau” Trocken

From 20-25 year old vines.

Apricot, young pineapples and some lime notes. On the palate we find a fresh mineral bite and some fresh lemon notes.

The wine has a fresh finish. In total an elegant but careful and tight wine.

88p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken

To a large extent from the vines on the steep part of Halenberg that was recently recultivated.

Initially some flint notes but then also tropical fruit, mainly stone fruit and some fresh minerals. Pure and precise nose. Zappy lemon acidity with a nice mouthwatering juiciness that stays with us in the finish. Dense and fresh tropical fruit on the palate.

This is a great Riesling wine with both energy and character.

92p/100

We tried this wine a second time in the eventing and it developed fantastically during the hours it was open.

2014 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken

The wine has some residual sugar (5,7).

The nose shows petroleum and ripe, but still rather careful, fruit notes dominated by pineapple. Juicy but slightly broad acidity combined with apples and tropical fruit on a generous and enjoyable palate.

Long and juicy finish.

88p/100

2011 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling trocken

The wine that in later vintages is called “Halgans”.2011 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling trocken From a warm year with low acidity.

Rather open and warm nose with ripe tropical fruit and some petroleum notes. Same style is carried over to the palate where we also find some French nougat notes and hints of sweetness. The acidity is rather broad and juicy.

A wine with a more ripe and warm character.

87p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Großes Gewächs2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Großes Gewächs

Red slate, gravel and red loam. Age of vines are between 15 and 60 years.

Beautiful nose with apricot and other stone fruit, some apples and a hint of herbs. A both elegant and complex nose with great freshness.

Same notes are found on the palate where we also have a pure and precise acidity with both lime and lemon. The wine is energetic and mouthwatering and should age very well.

94-95p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Großes Gewächs

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Großes GewächsStony blue slate and quartzite soil, producing small and concentrated grapes.

Dense and complex nose with layers of fruit where pineapple, apricot, lime and lemon are most apparent.

The acidity is rather racy and has lots of lime and lemon notes. This will probably calm down with time.

The wine is already well balanced but has a slightly more austere impression than the Frühlingsplätzchen GG at this time.

There is an amazing potential in this very complex wine, but you will have to be patient.

95-96p/100

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese

Rather open and ripe nose with saffron, tropical fruit and some sweet notes. Fresh but rather careful lime acidity and some white flowers on the palate.

Pleasant wine with good personality, but it lacks some precision.

88p/100

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Spätlese

Slim and precise nose with some light tropical fruit and apples. Precise and fresh lime acidity combined with fresh fruit.

This is a pure and fresh Spätlese in a classical style.

91p/100

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Auslese

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling AusleseNotes of honeysuckle, white flowers and some melon. Careful tingling acidity which is just enough to carry the sweetness. On the palate we also find saffron and lime together with some floral notes.

This is rather slim Auslese that manages to stay fresh even with low levels of acidity.

93p/100

Summary:

The wines of Emrich-Schönleber are defined very much by their precise acidity and the pure and fresh fruit. We would consider them to be school book examples of top level German Riesling with a very classical style.

In a year where some producers get very high levels of fruitiness Emrich-Schönleber has managed to keep a very tight profile but still with fantastic fruit notes. We where very impressed by the wines and would recommend them to anyone looking for Riesling wines that can develop well with age.

Domaine François Chidaine 2014 – Mastering both Vouvray and Montlouis

François Chidaine has built an impressive estate from his modest start in 1989 when he bought his first vineyards and took over 3 hectares from his father. Today he controls approximately 37 hectares in the Loire region, where Montlouis is dominant with 20 hectares but they also have 10 hectares in Vouvray and 7 in Touraine. His position is quite unique since few winemakers are well established in both Montlouis and Vouvray. The expansion into Vouvray came when François got the chance to take over responsibility for Philippe Poniatowskis vineyards in Vouvray and later he took over ownership. This transition was not completely smooth, but have resulted in an impressive collection of vineyards in both villages. More recently they have also bought some vineyards in southern Spain.

Quite early in his career François has been moving over to organic winemaking and eventually biodynamic, and since 2003 the Domaine is certified biodynamic. The wine is aging in 600 liters barrels of which approximately 10 percent are replaced each year. They seek to avoid getting wood notes in their wines.

In general the wins from Vouvray have a bit higher levels of acidity than the wines from Montlouis.

2013 Sauvignon Touraine

Classical Sauvignon blanc but not over the top with nettles. Fresh and pure wine with a very precise acidity. Simple but very likable and easy drinking Sauvignon blanc.

84p

2013 Touraine Rosé

Another easy drinking wine which shows quality and freshness but not complexity. An abundance of red, almost sweet, berries. Some tannic structure to give backbone to the wine.

85p

2010 Vouvray Petillant

Quite closed on the nose but still some very fresh citric notes and some exotic fruit in the background.

The wine opens up a bit more on the palate where we find grape fruit, lime, some anise and mineral notes. The bubbles are fantastic, small and soft.

This wine is quite careful in the beginning but then shows more and more personality. A quality Petillant.

91p

2012 Montlouis Methode Traditionnelle Brut

The nose is quite expressive and fruity, showing several exotic fruits.

The taste is also quite fleshy with similar fruit and some notes of bread. This is a generous sparkling wine.

90p

2013 Montlouis Clos du Breuil Sec

From vines are 50-90 years old. Residual sugar less than 1 g/l.

Fantastic freshness on the nose with light citric notes, exotic fruit and some hints of ginger.

The wine is very acidic and there is less fruit on the pallet where we also find some hints of Chenin blanc wool and fresh minerals. In the finish the acidity takes over, and in general the acidity needs to calm down a bit before the wine gets balanced.

This is a precise and fresh wine that should be stored for a while before opening.

91-92p

2012 Vouvray Les Argiles Sec

This wine is a blend from different vineyards and the terroir has clay and sand.

In this wine the fruit takes a quite dominant position on the nose, showing pineapple and other exotic fruits, but also notes of flint.

The pallet contains the same fruit but also has ha high level of acidity, especially in the finish.

A wine, which is quite fleshy and generous.

91p

2012 Vouvray Clos Baudoin

Soil of clay and limestone with vines which are approximately 70 years old.

Fresh and cool nose with lime and pineapples in a nice balance but also some flint and minerals.

The exotic fruit takes a further step forward on the palate and we also find some surprising hints of oak.

This wine shows a good balance between fresh coolness and fruit.

92p

2011 Montlouis Les Choisilles

Flint in the soil. Gives minerals and acidity.

The nose is quite dense, both from fruit but also from honey in the background. Lots of pineapple and peach but also some hints of smokiness.

Generous wine where the acidity takes a back seat to the fruit. The character is probably mainly an effect of the vintage, which produces fruity wines.

88p

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2011 Montlouis Les Bournais

Quite young vines planted around 1995, in a very attractive terroir of limestone.

The nose is fruity and expressive with lots of tropical fruit and some minerals in the backgrounds.

Very pleasant and precise acidity that combines well with the pineapple and other tropical fruits we find together with lime. The crisp acidity stays in rather long finish.

The Les Bournais is a vibrant wine where the fruit and acidity both competes and complements each other.

92p

2011 Franc de Pied Les BournaisFrançois Chidaine

Same vineyard as the last wine but from ungrafted vines, i.e. not grown on American root stocks. These vines have a very low yield. They still have phylloxera in the ground so this is quite risky.

The wine is very concentrated, not only with fruit. We find yellow apples, tropical fruit and minerals on this complex nose.

The palate is very much in sync with the nose, but has slightly less fruit. The alcohol feels rather present in the wine but with this level of density the wine does not get unbalanced. Very long long finish with fruit and minerals.

This is a fantastic wine with high level of complexity and it will be exiting to follow the future vintages.

93p

2011 Montlouis Clos Habert

Seductive nose with honey, lime, grape fruit, pineapple, and fresh minerals.

Even though the level of sugar is quite low for a Tendre, it comes trough clearly on the palate, together with the fantastic fruit and minerals. There is a slight grape bitterness in the finish.

This is a complex wine with lots of personality, especially on the nose.

91p

2010 Montlouis Les Tuffeaux (Demi-Sec)

This wine is a blend of different vineyards.

Rather careful in the beginning and the nose almost has a wateriness to it. After a while some flint, minerals and exotic fruit appear.

Fresh young pineapple, an abundance of lime and minerals and a fantastic citric acidity to back up the sweetness in the wine

This is a slim and very precise wine that need some time before it opens up completely.

91p

2007 Vouvray Le Bouchet

A quite heavy nose with honey, flint and some exotic fruit in the background.

The acidity is a bit harsh and not as precise as we would hope for. We also find honey and some citric notes.

The Les Bouchet has a strong and generous personality, but lacks some precision and elegance.

89p

François Chidaine

2010 Montlouis-sur-Loire Moelleux

Residual sugar at 40 g/l.

Very aromatic nose with an abundance of honey that transfer over to the palate where we also find high levels of acidity. These are the dominant expressions of the wine and they compete for dominance but fortunately it ends in a tie and the wine is rather well balanced.

This is a generous wine with great personality. It would work well together with food.

92p

2010 Vouvray Moelleux

Residual sugar at 70 g/l.

Dense nose with lots of honey and some ripe exotic fruit.

The acidity is amazingly precise and saves the wine from being too heavy which could have been a problem considering the density. There is much of everything in this wine.

92p

François Chidaine

2009 Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Lys

This wine is only produced when they have botrytis.

Here we find lots of apricot and some quite fresh honey on both the nose and later on the palate. There is a tingling acidity which complements the quite dense taste of honey. A complex and generous wine.

94p

Summary

François Chidaine has an amazing range of vineyards with great terroir making a tasting of their range good introduction to the region. His wines show great precision and often with strong personality. This is definitely a producer worth following closely.

Tasting of Northern Rhone 2010 and Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 and 2006

I recently attended a dinner where the wine theme was Rhone and we tasted wines from both northern Rhone and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Most of the wines where from 2010, which is considered to be a fantastic, but still very young vintage. The youthfulness was also very apparent in the tasting and we also felt that some of the wines had gone into a tunnel phase.

Below are tasting notes and some basic information about some of the producers.

Rhone wines 2010

2010 E. Guigal St. Joseph Lieu-Dit St. Joseph Rouge

The Guigal family have had an enormous influence on the development in the region. They do both Estate bottling and act as negotiant, and today they produce wines from both Northern and Southern Rhone.

Rather sweet and soft fruit combined with slight vanilla notes. Careful but rather precise acidity on the palate where we again find vanilla and the soft fruit but also some white pepper and oranges. Tannins are very velvety and of good quality, though there is a hint of oak bitterness in the finish.

Pleasant and likable wine but rather one dimensional and simple.

86p/100

2010 Domaine Yves Cuilleron St. Joseph Les Serines

Domaine Yves Cuilleron has vineyards in St. Joseph, Condrieu, Côte Rôtie, Cornas and St. Péray. They produce wines in a rather modern style but are increasingly careful with oak and today use less than 20% of new oak.

The nose is dense with fruit notes, herbs and hints of oil paint. Still it manages to keep an energetic and fresh expression.

The acidity is amazing but a bit dominant at the moment. The balance should improve greatly with time. There is mainly dark fruit in the beginning but then some red fruit comes through, together with minerals and a hint of marzipan.

The wine has fantastic precision and should develop beautifully with time.

92p/100

2010 Domaine du Tunnel (Stéphane Robert) Cornas Vin Noir

The style of Domaine du Tunnel i classical/traditional and they avoid new oak barrels to avoid masking the wine. In their Cornas Vin Noir the grapes are from 100 year old vines.

Dense dark fruit, orange peel, spices and some under vegetation greets us in this rather forward nose.

The palate opens up with almost sourish red fruit together with softer blueberries. boysenberries and some black pepper in the background. Tannins are very present but of good quality and never gets dry.

Great nose but the palate gets a bit heavy and has a slight bitterness. This wine needs much more time to reach the peak but the potential is good.

91p/100

2010 Domaine du Colombier Hermitage

This wine is made of grapes from three different lieux-dits in Hermitage. Before 1991 the grapes from these vineyards where sold to negotiants. They ferment the grapes in whole clusters and the wine has been aged in french oak barrels, where approximately 30% are new.

A compact nose with an abundance of oil paint and soft dark fruit from blueberries, boysenberries and a hint of violet. Despite the masculine expression the nose manages keep a freshness.

The palate has a slightly sweet expression but this is complemented well with an energetic acidity. There are lots of berries, both red and dark but unfortunately also oak notes that masks the fruit and makes the wine slightly heavy. The tannins are clearly also affected by the oak treatment.

The wine has a fantastic nose but gets heavy on the palate and you need a break between each sip.

91p/100

2006 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée

Domaine du Pegau produces Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine in classical style with no destemming or new wood. The red wines are dominated by the Grenache grape.

Very ripe fruit, mainly plums and apricot, but also a slightly oxidized expression and some tobacco and violet. Initially the wine has some barnyard notes but these quickly disappear.

The palate has sweet red berries, some ginger and sandy tannins. Acidity is very careful and soft but still present.

For a wine showing this amount of ripe fruit and with a rather low acidity it manages to stay surprisingly fresh.

90p/100

2010 Domaine Chante Cigale Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes

Domaine Chante Cigale represent a more modern style of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The vines used for this wine are at least 80 years old and the wine has been aged in both stainless steel tanks and new French oak barrels.

An abundance of dense fruit, some orange peel, tea, herbs but also some green notes make up the nose. The palate has a powerful expression with some clear alcohol notes. Again there is a green touch to the wine and there is some black pepper, boysenberries and a rather fresh acidity. The finish unfortunately gets rather bitter, probably from oak.

86p/100

Two Roagna barbaresci from a warm vintage

We are great fans of Luca Roagna and his father’s wines and their focus on natural farming with flowers and multiple varieties of high grass growing between the vines that attracts pollinating insects. The Pajé vineyard that is just below their house in Paglieri and the nearby Asili are both offered in special bottling from older vines (vecchie vigne); 50 years or older.

2007 Pajé “vechie vigne”, Roagna

Colour is translucently dark red with blood orange nuances with transparently light-orange edges.

The nose emerges with distinct adhesive, burned firewood, tar, glycerin and beeswax. After several hours, there are no flowers but there is a subtle perfume and it is as always a very unique nose.

On the palate, now a little overly sweet dark cherry is dominant but also anise seeds, black tea, orange-peel and dry savoury notes. The acidity is fantastically balsamic, fresh and vivid wrapping passion fruit and dry honey. Texture is soft and tannins are now dense, chewy and approachable. It is medium bodied and and dense without any weight.

There is always this combo of balsamically fresh acidity and bold flavours, due to the 3-month very lengthy extraction, that make it such a unique experience to drink Roagna’s wines. The only downside here is the overly sweet fruit, but there is definitely no excessive alcohol and the label says 13.5% in a really warm vintage. Open in 2017.

93+p/100

2007 Asili “vechie vigne”, Roagna

Colour is translucently dark red with blood orange nuances with transparently light-orange edges.

The nose emerges with savoury notes, distinct oil paint, dried red flowers and smoke. After another four hours, thankfully, an interesting inner perfume arrives to the scene.

On the palate, there is an abundance of sweet fruit coated in fresh minerals, distinct savoury aromas, tar, anise seeds, orange peel and grime. As always the balsamic acidity is impressive and energetic wrapping dried honey. Body is mid weight and the wine is pleasantly mouth filling and quite forward, currently without finesse, in this warm vintage. Texture is soft, velvety and tannins are ripe but needs some more time to evolve into perfection. It is quite deep but it has not yet come together really, so needs a few more years of integration.

Acidity is great, has depth and as always it is full of bold flavours, but the wine is overly sweet and lacks the expected level of elegance from this site and older vines. However, no disturbing alcohol and tannins are perfectly ripe. Open in 2017.

92p/100

3 of the top Barbaresci from the fantastic 2008 vintage

We have selected some of the very top vineyards in Barbaresco and the line-up for this tasting includes the Rabaja, Montefico and the mythical Asili. All from the great cooperative in Barbaresco, the Produttori del Barbaresco with reasonable pricing.

Our readers may have noticed that we have already made a post about the Montefico here, but just for completeness, some of the same information is put in here too.

This cooperative is shared among 56 growers in Barbaresco and makes nine single crus as riservas in good years. If you look at the backside of your bottle, you can always read who the growers are. Vinification is traditional and employs a very hands-off approach to wine making. The juice undergoes maceration in steel for 28 days with 2-3 daily pump overs and are then aged in big, neutral barrels (botte) for three years and released after six months in bottle.

2008 is a classic vintage in Piedmont with a winter of three snowstorms followed by a rainy spring with April temperatures way below average, a warm May and a pretty cold and wet first half of June. The beginning of summer offered much warmer, but still quite wet weather that remained all through July. This was followed by average summer temperatures in August and September was very dry, but not critically dry. The harvest was easy and started on the first week of October and is in line with classic years such as 2004, 1999, except for in general offering a little more acidity.

We really think that this vintage is great in Barbaresco with in general very ripe tannins and great overall balance. The sugar level in the grapes are in general not as high as the previous vintage 2007 and the tannins are much more ripe and complex thanks to the slow ripening this year that is so important for nebbiolo. Our impression is that the vintage was more favourable here compared to in Barolo, where it is still often packed with dark, chalky minerals, very gnarly acidity and heavy tannins often at the expense of pure fruit. Naturally, Barbarescos are more approachable than Barolos, but even so when you compare legendary top-sites with their siblings in La Morra and Verduno in the north-west part of Barolo, you probably understand what we mean.

 

2008 Rabajà, Produttori di Barbaresco Riserva 

The vineyard has south-west exposure and lies next to the more famous Asili.

 

Sir Galahad:

The nose is floral and fresh, but now somewhat backward and shy. Make no mistake, the perfumes are there, but much less intense and forward compared to the other two in this tasting. It emerges with oil paint, some tar, fresh herbs and earthy vibrant notes at the base in here. It is a less enchanting and complex nose, but still a good one. The wine is a little more fleshier and more structured than the other two offering more body, but very surprisingly it appears a little diluted and the envelope now show a little volatile concentration. The palate is aromatic and it is rich in sweet, ripe fruit; dominated by cherries, but I don’t find it is equally pure and deep as in the other two. The acidity is very energetic and adds freshness, but unfortunately very dominating right now, giving the impression of a little unbalanced wine. However, I think it is of good quality but just needs much more time. The texture is a little more coarse than the the other two and tannins are not anywhere near the perfection as in the Montefico.

It is certainly has the structure that the Asili lacks, but it is now power at the expense of finesse and complex details. It is less enchanting, a little unbalanced and currently dominated by a promising, but currently edgy acidity, but maybe it is about to close down and that is why it feels a little backward at the moment. A wine now hard to both score and to predict its destiny, since it currently is not a charmer. My guess is to forget this wine until earliest 2018.

93p/100

Andreas:

Very generous and seductive nose with lots of bright red fruit, mainly raspberries, hints of tar, paint and roses.

In the mouth the wine is quite light and very fresh and has lots of quite sweet mouthwatering red fruit. The acidity is crisp and gives energy to the wine. It is dominated by raspberries but also some eucalyptus. Tannins are a bit harsh but also fruity. Should soften and integrate with time. The finish is not very long and dominated by the acidity.

After the Asili and the Montefico expectations on this wine was very high and unfortunately not met. This wine is fresh and seductive but lacks depth and complexity for a top score.

93p/100

2008 Montefico, Produttori di Barbaresco Riserva

South exposition.

Sir Galahad:

I refer to my tasting notes and introduction to Produttore del Barbaresco here.

94p/100

Andreas:

The nose offers darker berries, blueberries, eastern leaf, lots of tar, basil, eucalyptus, tobacco, liquorice, and paint. Much more power compared with he Rabaja and the Asili. There is a good balance between acidity, fruit and tannins but they need to integrate further before the wine reaches its peak. The fruit is deep and dark and there are earthy notes and some alcohol.

Very long finish with chewy and a bit dry and heavy tannins at the moment.

This wine has the ingredients for an amazing wine, but it needs time time to integrate and soften. I will definitely stock up with bottles and then forget them.

94-95p/100

 

2008 Asili, Produttori di Barbaresco Riserva

Sir Galahad:

The nose emerges incredibly slowly and first offers loads of fragrant red flowers, distinct menthol, ethereal notes, oil paint, ginger, cardamom, tiny notes of new leather and wet stone. Then after about three hours, we are rewarded with an intense, dense and seductive perfume and distinct raspberry candy. As always with this vineyard, we are offered beautiful and detailed fragrant flowers and its feminine inner perfumes and here it is unusually enchanting and complex.

The taste offers pure, ripe layers of red fruit, mainly cherries, but also wild strawberries, red current, sloe berries and raspberry candy. Just a little overripe fruit with some excessive sugars, but this a minor note. Alcohol is notable, but not disturbing. The palate goes on with anise, herbs and the base holds vibrating dark, chalky minerals and tiny notes of tar. The acidity is currently just a little whiny, but balsamic and in a few years it will be perfectly fresh wrapping grape juice, lime and pears. Texture is now fine sandy but still quite soft, even though the tannins currently still spurs the tongue a little and are just a little dry in the end. They are not as perfectly ripe and smooth as in the Montefico, but promising. I lack some structure, but at the same time it is very precise and persistent with a generous finish.

Even though not equally as perfect tannins as in the Montefico, this wine compensates with its young beauty, finesse and details. Here there are tar, smoke or earthy notes at the base that you find in the Montefico. This elegant, sophisticated and slender beauty is met in the lovely rose garden, dancing gracefully like a ballerina. I would say that there is a resemblance to Romanée-Saint-Vivant in place in terms of its body and focus in details to its precise finish. Please notice that this wine needs a minimum of three hours now and then serving temperature is best at 17 degrees Celsius. Open in 2017.

94-95p/100

Andreas:

Lots of floral notes, perfume, solvent, hints of rowan berries  grape, minerals, herbs, roses and some minerals. This is a quite careful but very complex and intriguing nose. After a few hours the red fruit and mainly raspberries takes a more dominant role. The acidity is direct and vibrant in this youthful wine. We also find lots of red fruit, minerals some herbs and after a while more strawberries enter the scene. The tannins are sandy and slightly dry in the finish.

This is a fantastic Asili, best described with the words elegance and finesse. The nose is amazing and a bit Burgundian.

95p/100

Summary

Amazingly, these very price-worthy Barbaresci riservas only costs about €40/$65. We are looking forward to tasting the upcoming 2010’s, even though it is certainly greater in Barolo and it may turn out that 2008 is better in Barbaresco than 2010 after all.

A powerful, but yet pure and fresh Margaux

The Château Rauzan-Ségla is well known to all Bordeaux drinkers and the estate was established in 1763. However, in 1994 the current owners, the Wertheimer brothers, who also owns Coco Chanel, bought it and hired the scotsman John Kolasa to manage the wine making. John had previously been working at Château Latour and when he arrived to the estate, he planted more merlot and put a lot of focus on the vineyards; especially low-yields and meticulous selection of grapes.

The blend for this cuvée was 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot and yields was extremely low this year in Bordeaux. 60% new oak is used to raise this wine for 18 months.

2011 Chateau Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux

The colour is very dark purple-red middle with very intense crimson red light edges.
After one hour scents of pencil lead, graphite, barn, cassis, fresh herbs, shale and saline mushrooms emerges from the glass. A quite deep, complex and fresh nose pushed by skillful use of oak.
This wine offers very pure, cool and fresh black fruit. The palate offers distinct cassis, dusty gravel, olives, lead pencil, grape-peel and loads of minerals. It offers high concentration and is full bodied with chewy and grainy, but currently a little coarse and heavy tannins. It is powerful, fleshy and very persistent too with very good balance. Acidity is very balsamic, fresh and energetic in this yet very young wine.

A very balanced, fresh and very persistent wine in this vintage indeed. It is drinkable now, but open it in 2019 to let the tannins settle more.


92-93p/100